Today the charity Nil By Mouth is asking fans to fill in a questionnaire on whether or not they want to see Strict Liability introduced to football here.
This is not an effort to bounce the clubs; I went through that questionnaire today and it’s obvious that it’s been sent out with a political agenda in mind, and probably with the connivance of the Scottish Government itself.
The threat that legislation would compel Strict Liability has been hanging over the sport for months.
It is a fraud. The SNP would be making a colossal mistake in trying to put such a thing into law. For one thing, FIFA regulations – and it’s those which take precedence here, not a bunch of political hacks – are quite clear on this; football runs itself. That idea might not find favour with a lot of people but that’s just too bad.
National parliaments do not interfere in the running of the game; period.
Those which have tried have found the FIFA response to be severe. Included amongst the possible sanctions are the banning of Scottish clubs from Europe; any attempt to do this would result in the most incredible backlash from fans and the teams themselves.
When the Nigerian government sacked the heads of football’s governing body in that country FIFA retaliated in spectacular fashion and banned the national team from competing in their competitions.
When Swiss club Sion decided to test UEFA and FIFA’s hold on the sport, by taking a case to a civil courtroom (a case in which we were involved, if you recall) the governing bodies responded by threatening to ban the national team and all the club sides from continental competition until their own mandate was respected.
In this case, the SFA has consulted member clubs on Strict Liability.
The clubs themselves have consistently voted against it.
That decision has been made, it’s been made within the sport, by the people who matter.
Any attempt to over-ride that process by the application of a law which comes from outside the sport would have catastrophic ramifications, in particular as Strict Liability regulations allow for points deductions, stadium closures and even bans from competing in tournaments. This is the textbook definition of a government trying to interfere in a matter of football governance. FIFA and UEFA will never let it stand.
Imagine for just a second the backlash if the Scottish Government did this and FIFA decided to respond by banning our national team, and our member clubs, from competing in continental tournaments. Celtic would suffer immeasurably as a result of this – no Champions League or Europa League for at least a year – having already voted against the measure. We would be punished for the implementation of something we opposed.
Peter Lawwell and the board wouldn’t know who to sue first.
Even without UEFA and FIFA’s almost certain intervention on this, the idea that football should have rules imposed upon it because the government doesn’t happen to like those which currently exist is scandalous. What’s to stop them trying to “level the playing field” on the pitch, as one of their ministers famously said of arrest quotas before the passage of the now notorious Offensive Behaviour Act (still on the books, by the way, in spite of much protest and the SNP’s loss of a majority) by changing the league structure, or telling the SFA and SPFL how TV money should be distributed? Or imposing quotas on the number of foreigners in a team?
This is why the FIFA directive exists in the first place; once government starts poking about in football’s rules it’s a slippery slope and there’s no telling where it ends.
I don’t think I’ll shock anyone by saying that this government appears to have a genuine contempt for football supporters, something that ought to be remembered when they run for re-election. Even those of us who support independence will not accept being treated like animals in a zoo.
There are other parties we can vote for, and as many of us voted SNP in the first place out of tactical expediency rather than out of affection for their party they best keep in mind that there are pro-independence alternatives, including the Green’s who’s broadly leftist agenda is appealing to those voters who can’t stomach putting an X next to a Labour candidate, but who have long memories and a deep distrust of any party which wants to impose police state policies like OBAF.
Sectarianism in Scottish football once looked like a problem without a solution. Strict Liability is like a solution without a problem.
There are people at various clubs who engage in unsavoury behaviour; these sort of regulations would punish everyone else for their behaviour, and that’s why these measures are voted down time and time again.
The arrogance of this government in thinking it can over-rule the clearly expressed view of the clubs is ridiculous. We’ve seen how its own ministers behave at every hint that the will of their own parliament is being over-ruled by the one in London; this is a classic example of hypocrisy and that, along with the general sneering at football supporters, is becoming a serious irritation and will, sooner or later, pose a serious threat to their own political position.
They are the national government, but they have no business interfering in the running of the national sport.
If they dare to try there will be consequences, and not just for them. Because this government does not have a majority, and these regulations can’t be passed whilst that’s the case. Scottish football fans will be watching to make sure they are put where they belong; in the bin. OBAF and all the attendant harassment from the police has stress-tested tolerance levels at every ground in the land. This will be the straw that snaps them completely.